(A Brief Eulogy for Hellhammer)
"The most terrible, abhorrent, and atrocious thing 'musicians' were ever allowed to record."
- Hellhammer Review, "Rock Power Fanzine", Germany, 1984
"Demon Entrails" is a collection of all demos from Switzerland's Hellhammer,
arguably one of the most influential yet at the same time misunderstood bands
in extreme metal history.
In the summer of 1981, at the height of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal
movement, Tom Gabriel Warrior (née Tom Gabriel Fischer) traveled to London
where he purchased a number of vinyl records, including Venom's debut single,
"In League With Satan". At the time, the teenage metal fanatic was a bass
player and founding member of Swiss four-piece Grave Hill, but inspired by
deliberately playing Venom's 45rpm single slowed down to 33rpm, Warrior
decided to make a drastic change in musical direction and produce something
far more heavy and aggressive. Frustrated with the limitations of Grave Hill,
Warrior eventually formed a new band in May 1982. The band was initially
called Hammerhead but soon renamed itself Hellhammer. Joining Warrior, now
on vocals and guitar, in this new venture was singer and bassist Steve Warrior
(née Urs Sprenger) and drummer Pete Stratton. It soon became clear, however,
that Stratton was severely lacking in ability, and in November 1982, he was
replaced by ex-Moorhead drummer Bruce Day (née Jörg Neubart).
In June 1983, Hellhammer recorded their first demo on an eight-track studio
unit at their rehearsal bunker in Birchwil, Switzerland. A total of 17 songs
were recorded over a two day period, with nine of the tracks scheduled to
appear on the planned "Death Fiend" demo tape, which eventually was cancelled
by the band. At this point, Hellhammer were still completely unknown outside
of Switzerland, but that was about to change as 13 tracks from the recording
sessions were packaged as the "Triumph Of Death" demo and unleashed to the
metal media, with the accompanying demo sleeve proclaiming "Venom are killing
music... Hellhammer are killing Venom". The reaction from the underground
press was as extreme as the music. Notable magazines and fanzines such as
Germany's Shock Power, France's Enfer, and America's Metal Rendezvous offered
enthusiastic reviews, but elsewhere the response was far from glowing, with
the UK publication Metal Forces in particular most scathing in their
condemnation of the band. Nevertheless, the buzz on the worldwide underground
to Hellhammer was overwhelming, and with original copies of "Triumph Of Death"
quickly selling out, the tape soon became the most sought after demo in tape
trading circles since Metallica's legendary "No Life 'Til Leather".
Concurrently with the release of "Triumph Of Death", Hellhammer's members
decided to adapt additional pseudonyms. Tom Gabriel Warrior became Satanic
Slaughter, Steve Warrior chose Savage Damage, whilst Day was eventually named
Denial Fiend. However, despite the band's new-found international recognition,
Hellhammer underwent drastic changes and entered a period of chronically
unstable line-ups. The main change was the separation from founding member
Steve Warrior due to what Tom Gabriel Warrior subsequently described as his
"lack of dedication". Only after recording a new demo in early December of
1983, the union with former Shizo bassist Martin Eric Ain (née Martin Eric
Stricker, a.k.a. Slayed Necros) finally provided some stability. Ain had
already been contributing ideas, concepts and lyrics for months.
The new demo, "Satanic Rites", contained 10 tracks recorded in just 8 hours.
Limited to an edition of 200, some copies were sent out to record companies.
German label Noise Records were impressed enough to offer Hellhammer a
three-year record deal. The band entered a Berlin studio in February 1984 to
record material for the four-song "Apocalyptic Raids" EP, released in March
1984. Two additional songs from the same session - "Revelations Of Doom" and
"Messiah" - were featured on Noise's "Death Metal" compilation album in May
of that year. Meanwhile, Metal Blade Records licensed "Apocalyptic Raids" for
the USA, simultaneously including Hellhammer's "Satanic Rites" demo track
"Crucifixion" on their "Metal Massacre V" compilation.
With the band's fan-base gathering momentum across the globe, it came as a
shock to many in May 1984 when Warrior and Ain proclaimed that Hellhammer had
reached its musical limitation and that the concept was too weak to continue.
Having dissolved Hellhammer, Warrior and Ain soon announced they had forged a
new avant-garde power trio by the name of Celtic Frost. Though the pioneering
Celtic Frost went on to release landmark albums with 1985's "To Mega Therion"
and 1987's "Into The Pandemonium", the name of Hellhammer remained a huge
influence at the brutal end of the extreme metal scene and the band now enjoy
a cult status among connoisseurs of the genre. 25 years on, "Demon Entrails"
becomes the first official release of those legendary Hellhammer demos since
the limited edition cassette editions in 1983.
Eulogy written by Bernard Doe.
Tom Gabriel Warrior (Satanic Slaughter)
Martin Eric Ain (Slayed Necros)
Bass/Backing Vocals, 1983-1984
Bruce Day (Denial Fiend/Bloodhunter)
Steve Warrior (Savage Damage)
Stephen Priestly (Evoked Damnator)
Mike Owens (Grim Decapitator)
Vince Caretti (Dei Infernal)